Pseudonymous self-described Internet of Things (IoT) enthusiast "Tavis" has found a low-cost way of deploying solar-powered weatherproof Meshtastic LoRa nodes around his property: by making use of cheap Harbor Breeze solar LED floodlights.
"The Harbor Breeze Solar LED Light can be purchased for about $15 and includes a capable solar panel, lithium ion cell, and charge controller in a waterproof enclosure," Tavis explains of the hardware base to the project. "The RAK[wireless WisBlock] baseboards fit perfectly inside the solar compartment [to create] a completely weatherproof solar powered Meshtastic node."
Meshtastic is the name given to an open-source mesh networking platform designed to run on low-cost low-power devices, such as RAKwireless' WisBlock range. Communicating between devices over LoRa radio, any given node can talk to any given node — and if you're out of range of your target node, the nodes in between will act as repeaters to make sure your signal gets to where it needs to go.
This makes for an easy way to deploy wide-area sensor networks with bidirectional communication, but you still need power — and, for outdoor use, weatherproofing. This is where the Harbor Breeze lights come in: available for much the same cost as a decent project housing, the lights already include a battery and a solar panel capable of driving a Meshtastic node in a pre-weatherproofed housing.
"Some soldering is required as well as drilling a hole in the plastic case," Tavis says of the skills required to carry out the conversion. "Items needed: an IPEX to SMA pigtail is needed in order to have an external antenna. A JST-PHR-2 connector is required if you want a plug-in type battery connection. Soldered connection will also work though. Sealing glue (silicone or marine sealant)."
Tavis' full project write-up is available on Hackaday.io.